Rwanda to receive first batch of refugees from Libya this week

UNHCR estimates that more than 50,000 people fleeing war and poverty in Africa are in Libya./ AP

Rwanda will later this week receive the first batch of refugees stranded in Libya as part of commitment made by President Paul Kagame’s government in 2017 to help ease the migrant crisis in the North African country.

The first group of 75 migrants are expected in Kigali on Thursday ahead of their transfer to a transit facility just outside the capital.

Authorities in the East African country said in November 2017 that they would work on a plan with Libyan authorities to have some 30,000 migrants taken to the East African country. This was in response to reports of stranded migrants being tortured and sold as slaves by human traffickers.

According to the UNHCR, some of the refugees that will arrive in Rwanda will settle in the country, some will be settled in third countries while others will be returned to countries where asylum had previously been granted.

The agency estimates that more than 50,000 people fleeing war and poverty in Africa remain in Libya, where they are holed up in inhumane detention centres.

Libya has bore a major brunt of the migrant crisis involving countries with access to the Mediterranean Sea.

Human trafficking cells have operated within the country for years, taking advantage of the crisis there. The country became a favoured departing point for migrants seeking to reach Europe by making the precarious sea crossing.

The African Union in 2017 urged its members to help the situation by taking in the migrants into their borders.

“I appeal to all member states of the African Union, the African private sector and African citizens to make financial contributions to help alleviate the suffering of African migrants in Libya,” AUC chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said in November 2017. “I urge member states that have logistical means to make them available to facilitate the evacuation of African migrants who wish to leave Libya.”